10 travel experiences that make New Zealand unique

HERE are 10 experiences you will have in New Zealand that you won’t have anywhere else in the world. And all give you 10 excellent reasons to jump on a plane and head on over.

1. Hang out with hobbits
New Zealand is officially the hobbit capital of the world, thanks to the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy that cemented the fact that this is Middle Earth where hobbits live. You can see the set for Hobbiton near Matamata and there are a wealth of LOTR sites across the country.

Hobbiton. Pic: Wikimedia Commons.

Hobbiton. Pic: Wikimedia Commons.

2. Listen to the world’s funniest accent
Come to New Zealand and you will hear an unusual array of vowel sounds that don’t exist anywhere else in the world. As an Australian I just had to get this in and I do know the Kiwi’s think we speak just as strangely. The last laugh is on both of us though because despite the fact we each joke about how the other speaks, a lot of other countries can’t pick the difference between us.

3. Meet a lot of sheep
The ratio between people and sheep in the country is well documented, but if you didn’t know it let me just spell this out again. There are about 4.3 million people and 40 million sheep, a ratio of 1:9, although on the south island it’s more like 1:20. That’s a lot of sheep and you are guaranteed lots of great photos with white, woolly characters.

NZ also holds the Guinness World Record for the number of sheep owned by one man. That belongs to Simon McCorkindale of Christchurch who had 384, 143.

Sheep near Queenstown. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

4. Rub noses with people as a welcome
In the Maori tradition people greet each other by pressing noses. This is known as a hongi and is used at major ceremonies instead of a handshake like in the west. It’s also supposed to be where the ha, or life breath is exchanged – there aren’t too many countries where you do that!

5. Climb a lot of mountains
Of New Zealand’s highest 30 mountains, 24 are over 3000 metres. The south island is liberally littered with the beauties particularly along the amazing Southern Alps. This chain of mountains in the South Island also features Mt Cook, the country’s highest at 3754m. And there are some superb hiking trails to undertake through, around, over and near many of these.

Hikers on the Kepler Track. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

6. The world’s most southerly capital
Windy Wellington, the national capital, is the world’s most southern capital.

7. Get very wet
There’s a lot of rainfall each year in New Zealand which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for tourists so don’t let it put you off. It means the forests are green, the waterfalls run and the lakes fill up. And it varies depending on where you are – on the west of the South Island it could be as much as 18.4 metres but only 167mm in dry Central Otago.

8. Unusual and plentiful wildlife
While Australia probably holds the world title for most unusual and unique animals, there are some interesting ones in NZ. A highlight is the rare Kiwi, a flightless bird endemic to NZ. NZ also has the most seabirds and forestbirds than anywhere else. The kea, a large alpine parrott, is one of the naughtiest, most entertaining and cheeky of these. There’s also the tuatara reptile, a rather distinct creature that is said to have flourished millions of years ago.

Kea bird. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

9. Safety first
New Zealand has topped the Global Peace Index for two years in a row. This index rates countries according to how safe they are. So despite the earthquake, which affected just the one city, the good race relations, diplomacy, low defence spending and so on make it a wonderful, safe and stable place to visit.

10. Go nuts
We all know commercial bungy jumping first took place in Queenstown in 1988. Since then this country has dreamed up a range of terrifying and adrenalin-inducing water, sky and land experiences. You can choose from zorbing, jet boating, white water rafting, diving, mountain biking, hiking, heli skiing or a multitude of other activities.

Bungy jumping near Queenstown. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com